HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ - The new millennium started off with two moderately successful, for Hasbrouck Heights standards, appearances in the NJSIAA Group 1 playoffs, followed by opening round losses.
2000-2001 also saw a pair of seven win seasons with wins over Wood-Ridge to end the season.
The 2000 squad was challenged offensively, particularly in comparison to prior seasons. While the 1998 squad scored 443 points, and the 1999 squad scored 332, the 2000 offense put 178 points up on the board. The defense was top-notch, allowing only 86 points, and was the key to season.
Opening at Secaucus, the Aviators came away with an 8-0 win over the Patriots, avenging their 1999 loss. Running back Mike DeFranco scored the only touchdown for the Aviators, while the defense came up with a big stop in the fourth quarter on fourth and seventh at their own 30-yard line.
The defense continued their strong start, as they traveled to Lyndhurst and shut out the Bears 31-0. Quarterback Jack Vogt tossed two touchdown passes, and DeFranco caught one and rushed for one, to lead the offense. Ryan Malone returned an interception 42 yards to get the defense on the board.
DeFranco broke out as a star against Wallington, scoring five touchdowns, as the Aviators rolled over the Panthers, 34-14. DeFranco racked up 241 yards rushing, and scored on a pair of one-yard runs, plus from five, 22 and 30 yards. Wallington scored two late touchdowns, breaking the Aviators streak of 11 scoreless quarters to start the season.
North Arlington came to Depken next, with the Aviators improving to 4-0 with a 33-7 win over the Vikings as DeFranco continued his assault on the end zone, scoring four more touchdowns. DeFranco rushed for 215 yards on 22 carries, while Craig Meyer had 12 tackles and Chris Albanese had his fourth interception of the season to lead the defense.
The Aviators recorded their third shutout of the season with a 27-0 win in Harrison. Malone caught two touchdown passes, while DeFranco and Meyer added rushing touchdowns in the win.
The undefeated season came to an abrupt end against St. Mary, as the Gaels defeated the Aviators 12-2. The Gaels points came on two field goals and a fumble recovery in the Hasbrouck Heights end zone. The Aviators lone points came when St. Mary ran out of the end zone rather than punting with a 12-0 lead late in the fourth quarter.
DeFranco scored two touchdowns, including one with a minute left in the game as Hasbrouck Heights rallied for a 14-7 win over Becton to improve to 6-1 the following weekend. DeFranco had 179 yards rushing, and went over the 1000 yard mark for the season. Vogt went 4-for-4 passing for 71 yards in leading the Heights comeback.
But the Aviators stumbled a second time, as Hasbrouck Heights had 377 yards total offense, including 249 yards by DeFranco, but two lost fumbles into the Weehawken end zone cost the Aviators, as Weehawken upset Hasbrouck Heights, 6-3 at Depken Field. The win knocked the Aviators out of a first place tie in BCSL-National with St. Mary, and helped Weehawken clinch a playoff spot for the first time in a decade.
The loss dropped the Aviators to the seventh seed in the NJSAIAA rankings, sending them back to an old rival, Cresskill in the opening round of the playoffs.
The undefeated Cougars defense contained the Aviators offense, as Cresskill handed Hasbrouck Heights a 33-6 loss. DeFranco scored the only Aviator touchdown, on a 26-yard pass from backup quarterback Steve Hyun.
The Aviators ended the season on a positive note with a 20-7 win over Wood-Ridge. Jim Maher gave the Blue Devils an early 7-0 lead with a seven-yard run. But Hasbrouck Heights rallied behind DeFranco, who had two more touchdown receptions from Hyun and Morgan Horner recovered a fumble in the end zone for the Aviators final score.
DeFranco finished with 18 touchdowns on the season, and was named Second Team All-County at running back. Craig Meyer was named Third Team All-County at linebacker. Chris Albanese (DB) and Jesse D’Amore were named First Team All BCSL-National, while Greg Leone (TE), Ryan Malone (WR), Matt Wixon (DL), joined Vogt on the Second Team. Hyun and TJ Kroncke were named Honorable Mention.
Hasbrouck Heights opened the 2001 season under the cloud of the 9/11 attacks, hosting Weehawken to open the season. Both schools hoped that the NJSIAA would provide some means of delaying the game, but the NJSIAA, in a move that drew criticism from media throughout the state, said it was up to the schools to figure it out.
Faced with post-season penalties for canceling the game (and no open dates to slide the game), the game was moved to Monday, September 17. Weehawken showed up to Depken Field, less their band, and were defeated by Hasbrouck Heights, 28-6. Albanese, who scored twice, Robby Delcalzo and Isiah James each ran for over 100 yards while scoring for the Aviators.
The Aviators were able to move the ball down the field, but were stopped four times in Secaucus territory as the Patriots defeated Hasbrouck Heights, 18-0 in Secaucus. Albanese had done most of the damage for the Aviators offensively in the first half until getting injured and leaving the game with 82 yards on 12 carries.
The Aviators righted the ship with a win over Lyndhurst, 28-6. Albanese returned to the lineup, but James was the key, scoring two touchdowns, including an 85 yarder on the first play from scrimmage, en route to 141 yards on 18 carries. Vogt completed two touchdown passes, one to Albanese, and one to Jack Laterza, for the other Aviators scores.
Two road games followed, with wins over Wallington (24-6) and North Arlington (35-7.) Fullback Frank Valente scored twice (45, 5) while pounding out 141 of his 182 yards rushing in the first half to lead the Aviators over previously unbeaten Wallington. With the Panther defense trying to combat James’ speed to the outside, Valente took advantage, pounding the ball straight up the middle.
Valente had 220 and James 140 as the Aviators ran off North Arlington. Valente had three more touchdowns, James one, as the Aviators opened up a 7-7 tie with 28 unanswered second half points. A Vogt to Albanese 10-yard pass opened the scoring for the Aviators in the first quarter.
Robbie Delcalzo scored three times and rushed to a 159 yards in the Aviators 26-win over Harrison back at Depken Field. After a scoreless first half, Delcalzo gave Hasbrouck Heights a 6-0 lead on a 45 yard touchdown, and gave the Heights a 14-8 lead with a 25-yard run. Valente continued his streak of big games, with 106 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
Next up was St. Mary, and once again, the Gaels were able to edge the Aviators, this time, 13-12, as St. Mary kicker Vinny Doffont proved to be the difference, with two field goals, including the game-winner in the fourth quarter. Doffant hit from 40 and 42, but his attempt from 50 yards almost proved disastrous for St. Mary, as the kick was blocked and returned 60 yards by Delcalzo, giving the Aviators a 12-10 lead.
Albanese scored for Heights on a 31-yard in the second quarter with Hasbrouck Heights down, 10-0, to get the Aviators back in the game. The extra point was blocked, and the two-point conversion following Delcalzo’s touchdown was no good, setting up the game winning field goal.
A missed kick proved to work to the Aviators benefit against Becton, as Hasbrouck Heights handed the Wildcats their first loss of the season, 7-6. The Wildcats returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, but missed the extra point for a 6-0 lead. Delcalzo broke a 76-yard run with 7:14 remaining in the game, and Nick Timpone nailed the extra point for the margin of victory.
Hasbrouck Heights was slotted in eighth in the state playoffs, and faced Glen Rock, who had won the past three Group 1 titles (starting with 1998’s win over Hasbrouck Heights). The Aviators were not going to be the school who slowed down that train, as the Panthers defeated Hasbrouck Heights, 37-6.
Glen Rock bottled up the Aviators running game, allowing no big runs from James or Valente. Delcalzo finished with 128 yards and Hasbrouck Heights only score of the game.
The Aviators finished up with Wood-Ridge, who bore the brunt of the Aviators playoff disappointment, 47-14. Delcalzo rushed for 85 yards and a score, plus returned a kickoff for another touchdown. Albanese scored twice and Vogt rushed for two, and threw two, one to Albanese, one to Matt Perrapato.
Nick Incognito and Michael Rose scored for the Aviators.
Albanese was named First Team BCSL-National at defensive back, joined by tackle Jesse D’Amore. Delcalzo was selected second team, where he joined by Perrapato (TE), linebacker Dan Curci, guard Dom D’Amico with Mike Luterzo and Jack Vogt getting Honorable Mention nods.
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